Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 - Year-end Review

For me, 2011 was another great year for paddling. I try to do at least one big trip each month, and here are some of the more significant ones:
With last winter’s snow, I was also able to get in a little snowshoeing in 2011:
I added a few new videos to my collection of Blackstone River videos. I now have the river pretty much covered from Riverbend Farm in Uxbridge down to the Slater Mill in Pawtucket. I also included a couple of sections of the Clear/Branch Rivers.

I had a great vacation in Narragansett – my first attempts at ocean paddling.

As for last year’s resolutions, I did OK. I did get out to paddle with SuAsCo Al – three times in fact:
I still need to work on my C1 rolling, and I need to do some overnight camping trips. It’s good to have some goals for next year.

Overall it was another great year, and there are still plenty of rivers I would like to paddle. Happy New Year everyone.

Assabet - Acton to Concord - December 31, 2011

Al running the broken dam
As 2011 came to a close, I got out for one last run with Al, Tommy and Jeff on the Assabet River. We ran the section from the Acton to Concord. The level was great - 3’, 300 cfs on the Maynard gage.

On the way to the put-in, I checked out the class II section of the Assabet that runs through Maynard. It starts below the Ben Smith Dam just upstream of where Route 117 splits off of Route 62. There are a few features by the big clock in Maynard center (Walnut St.). The last bit and the gage can be seen from the parking lot where the river goes under Routes 62 and 27. The take out is at the Elks Hall on Route 62.  Minimum lever for running this is 250 cfs.  It looked fun at 300 cfs.  It's a short run, maybe a mile.  The Boston AMC use to do their Spring Ice Breaker run here.

Tommy practicing peal-outs
We put in at the Acton Canoe Launch which is on Route 62 (Powder Mill Road) near Moscarriello's Equipment and the intersection with  High Street.  The day was cloudy and damp, but it never rained.  It was colder than I expected, and we found 1/2 inch thick ice on some of the standing water.

The river starts off as flatwater with the occasional riffle until we reached the broken dam at Damondale.  This is a class I drop with a big big rock in the middle and a big eddy on river left.  Jeff and I ran it first followed by Tommy and Al.  Everyone made it through without difficulty.

Approaching the Old North Bridge
We continued downstream passing by the Leaning Hemlocks and the Memorial to George Bartlett (who arranged many outings on the SuAsCo rivers in the 19th century) before reaching Egg Rock where the Assabet River converges with the Sudbury River to form the Concord River. We paddled up to the Minute Man National Historic Park before taking out at the Calf Pasture on Lowell Road in Concord.  Great day.

Al's Trash Paddler blog entry
Assabet River Gage in Maynard
Minute Man National Historic Park

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Upper Nipmuc - December 28, 2011

I got an early morning call from Paul today looking to run the Upper Nipmuc. Level was about 4.25' - just about the minimum for this trip. Paul says that 4.5' is better. We put in at the Round Top Fishing Area off Brook Road in Harrisville and took out at the gage behind Paul's house. We could have continued down all the way to the Harrisville Fishing Area on the Clear River (Sherman Farm Road - Rt. 96). Paddled over three beaver dams. Portaged around six blow-downs.  Very pretty little river - great run.

Fishing Areas and Boat Launches in the Town of Burrillville

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Crystal Section of the Farmington - December 22, 2011

It’s been a while since I paddled with my good friends Matt and Scott, so I made it a point to get together with them yesterday to paddle the Crystal section of the Farmington River.

Over the years, I’ve made this trip many times. I did my first trip with Matt and Scott on the Riverton section of the Farmington in November 2006. Since then, we’ve done many runs on the Riverton and Crystal sections, and many park and play sessions at Satan’s Kingdom.

The drive to the Farmington takes about an hour and a half (Rt. 6, to Rt. 101, to Rt. 44, to Rt. 74 to Rt. 84, to Rt. 4, to Rt. 179). It always amazes me how many great river there are along this route. About a half hour away is the Quinebaug River. I pass right by the canoe launch in Dayville which is the take-out for the run from Putnam. About 45 minutes away is the Natchaug off Rt. 198. In addition to Diana’s Pool, there is also a nice poling run through the Natchaug State Forest. Finally, about an hour away is the Willimantic – a fun quickwater run. It’s been a while since I have paddled any of these rivers.

It was poring rain as I left Rhode Island, but the sun was out by the time I passed through Hartford. I met Matt, Scott and Charlie at the ball fields off Wannowmassa Lane around 10:30. We ran the shuttle and were on the water by 11:00. With the rain the previous night, the river was at a great level – 1,800 cfs on the Unionville gage.  Air temperature was is the mid-40’s. Water temperature was 43°.

We put-in off Rt. 179 near Collinsville. In the snow, there is a great seal launch hill here, but nobody tried it yesterday. The run is about 5-miles long and includes a series of class II drops and pools – nothing difficult, but lots of great places to play. The first major rapid is the Crystal Rapid which is the site of an annual spring slalom race. Its about a quarter mile long and terminates in a nice surf wave. Below Crystal is the ledge at the Rt. 4 Bridge. In lower water, this ledge is run on the right. Yesterday there was enough water to run the ledge on the left. After a short section of flatwater comes the Boateater Rapid – a long series of standing waves which is run to the right.

The run took us about 3 ½ hours and included two swims – not bad for us. I swam at the bottom of Boateater trying to find a place to take a picture. The other swimmer will remain nameless, but he knows who he is.

Surfing below the Crystal Rapid
My Pictures

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Paddling in a Winter Wonderland

Wind is calm, are you listening
River's free, no ice glistening
A beautiful day, let's get out and play
Paddling in a winter wonderland.

Gone away are our worries
Drifting off with the flurries
We sing this short song, as we go along
Paddling in a winter wonderland.

On the river we can watch the snowfall
Covering the fields as we go by
High up in a tree we hear a crow call
And overhead we see an eagle fly.

Later on we’ll conspire
As we sit by the fire
But now we’re outside, enjoying the ride
Paddling in a winter wonderland.

Saw this poem at the PenobscotPaddles blog, and had to save it for next year.

A Paddler’s “Night Before Christmas”

T’was the night before Christmas, and out on the water,
Not a creature was stirring, not even an otter.

The dry bags were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas would drop paddling stuff there.

The boaters were nestled all snug in their beds,
With visions of paddling gear dancing in their heads.

And Mama in her pogies, and I in my cap,
Had just settled in for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the river there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the curtains, and threw up the sash.

The moon on the water looked the whiteness of snow,
It shone like mid-day on the river below.

When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a big red canoe without a single reindeer.

With a little old paddler, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

Off the river and into the air he did fly,
In a beautiful silhouette against the night sky.

More rapid than eagles to the housetop he flew,
The canoe full of toys and St. Nicholas too.

And then from the roof-top there came a great sound,
The sound of a canoe running aground.

As I grimaced at the noise thinking there must be a hole,
Down the chimney came St. Nick and he snapped up with a roll.

He was dressed in a drysuit from his head to his foot,
And the gortex was tarnished with ashes and soot.

A drybag of gear he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a paddler as he opened his pack.

But his eyes how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
As he stopped for a swig of his Sailor Jerry.

He was a happy old paddler, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him in spite of myself.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
After filling the drybags he turned with a jerk.

Then laying a finger aside of his nose,
A brace he did do, and up the chimney he rose.

He sprang into his canoe and with a blow of his whistle,
He shot off the roof like water-borne missile.

But I heard him exclaim, as he paddled out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night”. 

Based on a Kayaker's Night Before Christmas by Terry Gowler, Mount Vernon, WA

Monday, December 12, 2011

Blacskstone River - Plummers Landing to Route 16 - December 12, 2011

Rice City Dam and the Hartford Avenue Bridge
I’m trying to use up the last of my vacation time, so I was glad when Paul said he would be able to paddle this morning. We decided to paddle the Blackstone from Plummers Landing (Church Street in Northbridge) the Stanley Woolen Mill (Route 16 in Uxbridge).

We met at the take out on Route 16 across from the Stanley Woolen Mill at 9:00 and ran the shuttle. It was a nice sunny day, but a little cool. There was a thin layer of ice on the Blackstone Canal, and an occasional icicle on the river - winter is coming.  The river was at a nice level – 4.5 feet, 600 cfs. on the Northbridge gage.

At this level, this trip is mostly quickwater with some flatwater through the Rice City Pond and one portage around the Rice City Dam at Hartford Avenue. We cruised downstream with little effort allowing the current to do most of the work and having a good time maneuvering though the frequent “S” turns.

We finished up around 11:00 – just in time for me to get to the Museum of Work and Culture for rehearsal.

At the put-in at Plummers Landing
My Pictures
Blackstone River Gage at Northbridge
Plummers Landing from the BRVNHC
River Bend Farm from the BRVNHC

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Blackstone River Videos

This year, I added a few new videos to my collection of Blackstone River videos. I now have the river pretty much covered from Riverbend Farm in Uxbridge down to the Slater Mill in Pawtucket. I also included a couple of sections of the Clear/Branch Rivers. Anyway, here they are:

Riverbend Farm – Canal/River Loop (new)
Uxbridge – includes Rice City Pond, Goat Hill Lock and the Stanley Woolen Mill

Route 16 to the Blackstone Gorge
Uxbridge, Millville and Blackstone – mostly the Millville Rapid

Blackstone Gorge to the Millville Rapid (new)
Blackstone and Millville – includes the Millville Lock and the Triad Bridge

Blackstone Gorge (new)
A hike up the Blackstone Gorge

Canal Street to the Blackstone Gorge
Blackstone and North Smithfield – includes the Branch River

Branch River (new)
Forestdale to Slatersville – includes the Slatersville Mills

Branch River
Harrisville to Slatersville – whitewater paddling

Saint Paul Street to Canal Street
Blackstone - Poling

Cold Spring Park to the Woonsocket Falls (new)
Woonsocket – paddling in the rain

River Island Park and the Woonsocket Falls
Woonsocket - Poling

Manville Dam
Cumberland and Lincoln

Albion to Ashton (new)
Cumberland and Lincoln

Canal River Loop – Lonsdale to Ashton (new)
Lincoln – includes Blackstone Canal and Ashton Dam

Lonsdale to Manville
Cumberland and Lincoln through Ashton and Albion

Valley Falls to Lonsdale
Cumberland and Lincoln

Valley Falls to the Slater Mill
Cumberland, Central Falls and Pawtucket

I still need to get the upper sections of the Blackstone from Worcester down to Uxbridge – maybe next year.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sure beats working - Clear and Branch Rivers – December 2, 2011

Paul below the Harrisville Dam
It’s been a beautiful week, and I have some vacation time that I need to use, so I sent an email to Paul to see if he would be interested in an afternoon paddle. We ended up on the Clear/Branch River yesterday.

The Clear/Branch is a fun run that I haven’t done in a couple of years. It’s about 7.5 miles with a little bit of everything – a lot of flatwater, some quickwater and a couple of easy rapids. It’s the only river in Rhode Island listed in American Whitewater.

Erik below the Whipple Drop
It was sunny and warm when we got on the river at around 1:00 in the afternoon. The river level was 3.5 feet, 300 cfs. on the Forestdale gage - OK, but another foot of water would have been better. We put in below the dam in Harrisville at the East Avenue Bridge (Route 107). The first rapid is directly below the bridge where two rows of boulders make for a difficult line through a small drop. We both took the bumpy route, but made it through fine, and headed downstream.

After about a short section of pleasant flatwater, we came to the next rapid – Whipple Drop. This is an old broken dam that creates about a 2-foot drop with a large rock just downstream. In high water, the current tends to sweep boats into this rock. At yesterday’s level it was an easy run just left of center. We played in the waves for a little while before continuing downstream.

Old Oakland Mill
After a couple miles of easy flatwater, we came to the first portage at the Oakland Dam. Remnants of the old Oakland Mill still stand on the left. We portaged on the right. Below the Oakland Dam, the river is mostly quickwater.

About a mile downstream we came to the Glendale Rapid. In high water, this is a rocky class II rapid. At yesterday’s level, it was boney, but not particularly difficult. I got hung up on a rock in the middle, got swung around, and finished the rest of the rapid backwards. Paul made a clean run down the middle.

Paul below Atlas Pallet
We played in the waves below the Glendale Rapid and enjoyed about a mile of quickwater before coming to the next rapid – the broken dam at Atlas Pallet. This is a short class II rapid with a couple of large boulders to avoid, and some easy surf waves at the bottom. We both ran the rapid clean, and after surfing in the waves, headed back downstream.

We portaged the Nasonville dam on the right and paddled the easy flatwater down to the take out off Nasonville Road. By this time, the sun was low in the sky, and both of us were starting to get cold. I blasted the heat as I shuttled Paul back to his car. Another great day.

My Pictures
River description from American Whitewater
Branch River Gage at Forestdale